Below is the full statement
Lord High Admiral Vernon Watson, OBE, familiarly known to us as Captain Watson, lived and breathed the Landship. His dedication to the ship was total and all-consuming. For close to seventy-five years it dominated his vision as he contemplated how he could secure the legacy of the organisation he led.
My heart breaks at his passing, for in him I have always recognised a Bajan who for three quarters of a century had dedicated his life to the sustenance of an indigenous institution that started its mission of reflecting our culture many moons before he became a member – indeed in the nineteenth century.
While Admiral Watson has taken his last breath here on this earth, every Barbadian who is culturally aware and conscious of what it means to be Bajan, ought to pause and say thanks to him for breathing fresh life into the Barbados Landship. I have always maintained that the Barbados Landship is an indigenous service club, whose existence pre-dates all others existing locally.
We owe it to Admiral Watson, however, to see that this unique slice of Barbadian life and culture does not disappear with his passing. We cannot be oblivious to the fact that in the 1930s the Barbados Landship, which boasted of almost 4,000 members and three “fleets”, comprised of more than 60 “ships” based at docks across this country, including his own in landlocked Highland, St. Thomas, today operates a single struggling ship, the Director.
For while today too many of us offer no more than a passing glance at the few loyal members who continue to show their commitment as they execute their rhythmic routines, we need to recall that the story of many working class Barbadian families reflects that they improved their lot through participation in Landship meeting turns. Many forget that the Landship was a friendly society that preceded the local credit unions in supporting those at the grass-roots level financially.
Future generations must have the opportunity to honour Admiral Watson and what he represented. This will only occur if they know that before the popularity of FM radio, before the advent of television, before movie theatres and drive-ins and the now ubiquitous cellular phones and tablets, the Barbados Landship was a critical source of community and national entertainment that was highly respected across the island. And as I just said, critical to the sustaining of many of our families.
This uniquely Barbadian institution founded in 1863 must be made to attract thousands of Barbadians once more so it may be as worthy to them as it was their predecessors.
So I say, “Sail on into glory, Lord High Admiral Vernon Watson. You have done your part, you have finished your leg of the race. We will proudly take the baton forward in your honour.”
To his wife and family, we offer our sincerest condolences and ask that they be comforted by his life of nation building.
2 Replies to “Statement from the PM on the passing of Lord High Admiral Vernon Watson of the Barbados Landship”
A cultural innovation..the landship…is.
This is a beautiful tribute to Captain Watson, so kudos to the PM, and let me also extend my condolences to his family, friends and the Landship.
I’m the furthest thing from an expert on the topic of the Landship, but my point of view is that if it is going the way of the dinosaurs then it’s obvious that it needs to evolve in order to survive. Looking for ways to modernize itself could be a way to attract more members. There’s a section of our population that loves to dance – just watch an episode of Q in the Community – so maybe the answer is to modernize some of the Ship’s routines into something that could attract those sorts of folks into its ranks. It could still keep and perform its older, more traditional ones too, but that combination of both old and new routines might be enough to make Bajans see it in a new light. It could even add to the different types of melodies that it’s performed to in order to further push that idea of borrowing something from other types of dancing.
It might even be a good idea to partner with local dance studios in order to get their input on how they could do this in a way that really freshens things up but still stays true to the Ship’s roots. Ultimately, I think morphing itself into what is first and foremost a dancing club would be the shot in the arm that it needs, but this would now be an institution where folks could learn and practice a type of dance that was uniquely Bajan – and still performed to Tuk music. In my opinion, this shift in focus could be made while still maintaining all of its other traditions such as the naval themes and uniforms.
A revival of its fortunes would definitely take time, but focusing on marketing itself by doing public performances as often as possible would definitely help matters. As long as there’s a willingness to change with the times, I still think there’s reason to be optimistic. Rough seas can’t last forever, right? Below is part 4 of a video series about the Ship produced by the Pinelands Creative Workshop: